Far be it from us to allow the start of a New Year to slip by without offering the customary predictions of what’s going to be rocking our world (or not). This year, we’ve tossed the crystal ball to LGcomms Executive Committee members, who have come up with a range of thoughts about what’s going to be hot and what’s not in 2023…
Alix Macfarlane, Joint Chair, LGcomms:
An increasing focus for activity will be on hyperlocal communications. Knowledge of our audiences combined with expert use of communications assets and channels is a powerful tool for effective reach across the regions we serve. Public sector communications teams are well placed to create campaigns and messaging targeted at communities within communities. Producing content that is adaptable for the needs of small, localised groups results in messaging people can relate to and share onwards in their own voice for wider take up. A growing trend towards detailed segmentation of audiences will be one way to tackle misinformation while demonstrating local understanding and building trust.
Andy Allsopp, Joint Chair, LGcomms:
Austerity is back with a vengeance and so is scrutiny of communications and marketing spending.
We’ll all need to revisit that place where we look at spending through the lens of cynical media or a taxpayer. Thinking about splashing £10k on an influencer? Probably not smart, certainly through the first half of 2023 and probably beyond.
Nick Thompson, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea:
Post pandemic, it feels like organisations have been in crisis mode pretty much ever since – which is no longer sustainable. Although some fantastic work was conducted by local authorities during Covid-19 and afterwards, 2023 should see a return to our bread and butter, but even better, as we have a greater understanding of audiences and getting to those that are hardest to reach.
My second prediction is a little more left-field… 2023 could well see major organisations and companies moving away from Twitter completely for the first time. It’s very unclear what the future of that platform now is, which means we need to think about how we engage with journalists in person again (imagine that!) and look at how this might impact our crisis comms planning and playbooks. As ever with social media, the goalposts may move dramatically and quickly.
Abigail Baron, Monmouthshire Council:
I predict more entry level/graduate career opportunities being created in the comms industry. We need the dynamic content creation skills that people with a new perspective bring. As public servants it feels right that we give grads a chance – i.e. create jobs that don’t come with the ‘2 years minimum experience requirement’ and support the start of their career.
I recruited a grad 18 months ago who has now secured their next, fabulous role and has moved onto their next adventure. Brilliant grads won’t stay long as they’ll quickly be looking for the next opportunity – but to generate a stream of people who will bring new ideas/innovation and brilliance this is definitely a good thing, and the right thing to be doing more of.
Bring on 2023.
Michael Moore, East Cheshire Council:
My prediction is that local councils/public service providers will be reviewing the usefulness of the wide range of social media platforms as communications and engagement channels, as those channels (and their wider use) continues to evolve.
Gabrielle Mancini, West Berkshire Council:
Now that hybrid working is standard practice, job boards have been full of newly-created temporary internal communications roles to help employers instil team unity and embed company culture. This will become more prevalent before employers eventually realise that this new resource is essential and must be retained – even in the context of budgetary constraint – in order to facilitate a well-functioning and inclusive workplace.
Andrew Hadfield Ames, LGcomms National Secretary:
As all public sector communications seek to demonstrate ever great value, with even more stretched resources, that teams are often tempted to look towards embracing newer technologies to engage communities – which they undoubtedly should do. However, my prediction is that re-looking at more traditional channels, with the killer question being ‘what is the most effective way of delivering this outcome’ will be just as important. Finally, the maixim: ‘content is King’ will continue to be just so, as long as it is relevant in the continuing cost of living focus across all fronts.
Georgia Turner, Communications Consultant:
With many councils having all out elections, including large unitaries such as here on my patch in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, as well as the old style thirds in some parts of the country (why do we still do this?), expect local people to channel their views on the state of national politics via the local ballot box. Many communications professionals will already be feeling pressure from members in the lead up to the pre-election period, while parties own local news machines are also in overdrive. Roll on the relative calm of the pre-election period itself, many will cry! Of course we then have the fun of the count (bring back of the overnighters, I always loved them!), followed by what may be an extremely turbulent time for many, particularly those facing a change in administration and political leadership.
This is testing on a number of levels. Professional relationships with key politicians will need to be re-established, created or, in extreme cases, repaired. We have the very real need to explain potential policy changes or even complete U-turns to the public on both major strategic approaches and operational service levels. Politicians are inherently impatient and will want this done quickly. It’s important of course to get it right rather than rush.
It’s essential that comms maintains the trust and respect of all politicians and isn’t seen simply as the mouthpiece of the current administration. My advice is to build relationships with opposition members now, if they aren’t already there, and work with your CX, 151 and MO to understand what might be on the horizon. Potentially tricky but exciting times ahead. Good luck!
Emma Rodgers, Vice Chair, LGcomms:
If you do one thing this year for your own professional development and for the sector, understand more about AI and the potential role it can have in PR and Marcomms.
Understand the tools, the technology and the way it can be used. While it is unlikely to be used across the board for three to five years, it is set to grow and expand exponentially in 2023. Bringing with it huge advantages and challenges too, communications professionals ignore it at their peril. Set your stall put now and get ahead. I guarantee it will be time well spent.
Andrea Newman, Strategic Director, Communications, Public Affairs and Engagement, Surrey County Council:
Collaboration will be key – working together across local government, health and wider public services will become even more pivotal as services begin to creak and come under further pressure. A united narrative will be important to maintaining long term partnerships and most importantly the pooling of budgets and at times resources even more key as comms budgets come under pressure.
Because you’re worth it – a cliché and almost too obvious to mention but ‘marketing ourselves’ will need to become more of a focus for us in 2023. It’s the bain of our lives trying to demonstrate the impact we have and the value we bring to our organisations but never will there be a more important time to demonstrate our value as budgets begin to get squeezed and comms and marketing becomes the inevitable focus to save money. Keep shouting from the rooftops about what you are delivering week in week out, use data to demonstrate the need for greater communication via multiple digital and mainstream channels, invest time in showing how you have impact and deliver outcomes for residents and staff.
Zander Mills, Vice Chair, LGcomms:
TikTok will continue to have a major impact on how organisations communicate – whether they are on the platform or not – as digital channels lean more and more towards dopamine-laced, bite-sized and entertaining content. Many more public services will understand TikTok’s unparalleled ability to reach different audiences and share old messages in new ways.
Lucy Downham, Strategic PR Manager, Wigan Council:
Over the last few years in local government communications teams have dealt with multiple crises. In 2023 the cost of living, strained authority budgets, recruitment challenges and strike action, will present another challenge for teams who may have to operate with fewer resources in what continues to be a very fragile political environment. Effective internal communications will be instrumental this year to foster a culture of positivity, can do attitude and resilience in a workforce which is tired, under enormous pressure and at risk of burnout.